60+ Orgs Release Letter Calling for Plastic Bag Regulations to Follow Intent of Law

For immediate release: Friday, January 31, 2020

Contacts listed below

60+ ORGS RELEASE LETTER CALLING FOR PLASTIC BAG REGULATIONS TO FOLLOW INTENT OF LAW

Albany, N.Y. – Advocates released a letter with over 60 organizational backers to highlight concerns with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) proposed regulations in relation to New York State’s plastic bag ban. Chief amongst the concerns outlined is a provision that would allow thicker plastic bags in New York. Advocates went over deficiencies in the regulations and called on DEC to fully enforce on the March 1st enactment date regardless of the status of the regulations.

Advocates voiced their strong support for New York’s plastic bag ban law. New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags every year. A significant number of these bags make their way into the environment causing litter and damaging wildlife, which can be seen within waterways, along streets and in oceans and lakes. Moreover, these bags do not biodegrade – they persist for years. The New York City Department of Sanitation currently estimates that it collects an average of 1,700 tons of plastic bags per week, costing $12.5 million per year in disposal expenses.

The comment period on the proposed regulations is set to close on Monday, February 3rd and the law will take effect on March 1st. Consumers should be prepared to use reusable bags in time for March 1st.

Judith Enck, former EPA Administrator and founder of Beyond Plastics, said, “New Yorkersuse a staggering 23 billion plastic bags every year. Plastic pollution is a major problem and state legislators and Governor Cuomo did the right thing by banning plastic bags in April 2019. However, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed draft regulations that would allow thick plastic bags to be handed out to consumers. This would be a monumental mistake which the DEC thankfully has time to change before the law takes effect on March 1st.”

Liz Moran, Environmental Policy Director for NYPIRG, said, “New York made the right move to fight climate change and protect the environment by banning plastic bags. But now the impact of that action is threatened by regulatory language to allow for thicker plastic bags. Plastic bags are plastic bags – to maintain New York’s status as a climate champion, DEC must ensure regulations follow the intent of the law and won’t allow the distribution of plastic bags, regardless of thickness, starting March 1st.”

Kate Kurera, Deputy Director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said, “New York is making a strong statement about valuing our environment, fighting climate change, and protecting public health by banning plastic bags. Unfortunately, DEC has proposed regulations that undermine the intent of the law, which is to ban plastic carryout bags, by opening the door to plastic bags of a certain thickness. There are deficiencies in these proposed regulations that need to be addressed; however, there is nothing that should delay the plastic bag ban from coming into effect on March 1. We look forward to plastic bags being banned in New York and working with the DEC to ensure the regulations are effective as possible.”

Charlie Olver, Policy Associate for NYPIRG and student at SUNY New Paltz, said, “Everyminute, the ocean receives a garbage truck worth of plastic - up to 8 million metric tons a year. 100 billion are consumed in the United States, and 23 billion in NYS alone. With alternatives already circulating in the market, and the environmental, public health, and economic risks plastic bags pose, using them has become an unnecessary risk. Banning all plastic bags is crucial to reduce this stream of waste, because thicker bags will only be used in the same way.”

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Contacts:

Liz Moran 518-436-0876 ext. 258

Judith Enck 518-605-1770

Brian Keegan 518-462-5526 ext. 238